Many of the developed countries in Europe have a very high level of collaboration in many terms. From the abolition of border checks to the creation of a common work market, these countries have shown the will to facilitate moving from one country to the other, for their residents. They have created facilities not only for traveling but for studying, working and living as well.
Yet, traveling, even in short distances, keeps many people under apprehension. The idea of something unpleasant, as a sudden accident or health complication, stops many from taking a trip.
Breaking a limb, getting flu or a cold, involving in a traffic accident… everything can happen during a trip, as it would happen if you were at home. Besides, the thought of having to take the trip back home, only to receive medical care, is quite scary. It is even scarier to think of paying tons of money, if you ever find yourself in such a situation.
The member states of EU / EEA / EFTA have thought about such an issue, and created two ways to make it easier for their residents when traveling within this region. These ways are:
- Schengen Travel Insurance, and
- European Health Insurance Card
What is the European Health Insurance Card?
The European Health Insurance Card is a document for people on a temporary stay in any of the following countries, who are also nationals of any of them:
|Cyprus (Southern)||Republic of Ireland||Portugal (including Madeira)|
|Denmark (including the Faroe Islands and Greenland)||Latvia||Slovakia|
|Finland||Lithuania||Spain (including the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands)|
|France (including Martinique and Guadeloupe)||Luxembourg||Sweden
|Switzerland||United Kingdom (Channel Islands and Isle of Man do not supply coverage under the EHIC)|
This document entitles its holder to receive necessary state-provided medical care, in any of the above-mentioned countries, just as the residents of that country.
Obtaining a European Health Card, shortly referred to as EHIC, is free. It enables you to receive medical care in one of these countries, in case of medical emergencies during the trip. In addition, you will also be able to get the proper medical care for a pre-existing condition that flares up while you are abroad, or that requires monitoring and attention, i.e. Diabetes.
You will have to obtain such a card at your home country. If you are traveling with your family, each family member, even children, should possess their own card. Each country has a specific EHIC application process.
The EHIC card replaces the old E111 card, which ceased to exist in 2005. If you still have an E111, and you are planning to travel to any of the EEA countries or Switzerland, then you ought to know you can no longer use it for medical treatment. Instead, you will have to get an EU Health Card.
What an EHIC is not?
Many people confuse the EHIC for things that it is not. Please keep in mind that this card is not:
- An alternative to travel insurance. You are still strongly advised to obtain travel health insurance when traveling from one of these countries to the other.
- A guarantee for free medical services. This card entitles you to public health services, but that does not mean all of those services are necessarily free. Some of them may be free, while for others you will have to pay.
The European Health Insurance Card does not cover:
- Non-emergency treatments.
- Private healthcare.
- Crime & lost items.
What services does an EHIC cover?
Even though, you will be able to receive all emergency medical services in any of these countries, if you have to pay and how much, depends on the specific country you are in. In simple words, if the nationals of that country pay for that service, you will need to pay too.
Following, find the services you can get with an EU health card, and costs you may have to pay for them:
- Doctors. Depending on the country where you are, you may consult with a doctor free of charge, or for a low fee. Usually, doctors with whom you can consult for free, have a contract with the national health insurance fund or an equivalent institution.
- Dentists. Only emergency dental cases will be treated with an EHIC. You will be able to receive dental treatment for free or lower fees from a dentist that is registered with the state healthcare system.
- Hospital treatment. In some of the countries, you will be able to receive hospital treatment free of charge at university and regional hospitals under the public healthcare system. In others, you will have to pay a per-day fee, or a percentage of costs (i.e. 10%). In the cases when hospitals are free, you will have to present a doctor prescription.
- Prescriptions. Depending on the type of medicines prescribed to you and the country in which you are, you will be able to get the medicines free of charge, for a lower fee, or pay them in their full price.
- Ambulance. Usually, an emergency ambulance transportation if provided free of charge. However, in some countries you will need to pay a small fee, or a per kilometer percentage.
Who needs a European Health Insurance Card?
Every citizen of EEA states and Switzerland planning to travel to any of these countries should obtain a Health Insurance Card. You are highly advised to apply for an EHIC card if you are traveling for the following purposes:
- To go on a holiday
- To seek work
- To undertake a study course
- If you are a regular visitor of this area (businessperson, driver etc.)
Keep in mind, that if you are traveling from your home country to another country within this area, to exclusively, seek health treatment for your condition, you will not be able to use this card.
In order to be eligible to obtain the EHIC card, you must be covered by a state social security system in any of the EEA members or Switzerland.
As per non-EU nationals residing in the EU, they will not be able to obtain or use their cards only in the following countries:
These individuals will also need to be covered by a state social security scheme, in order to be eligible.
How to apply for an EHIC?
The application process for a European Health Card depends on the issuing country. In most countries, you will be able to apply online. In others, you may have to submit your EHIC application by post.
In order to obtain your EHIC and learn more about the application process, you need to contact the health insurance institution where you are insured. They will inform you on further procedures you may have to undertake.
European Health Insurance Card Validity
The validity of a European Health Insurance Card also differs from one country to another. I.e. in the United Kingdom, a card is valid from six months, up to five years. You can apply for an EHIC card renewal in UK six months prior to the expiration of your card’s validity.
On the other hand, in Finland, the card is valid for a maximum of two years. While in Ireland, a card is valid for four years. It is best for you to contact the health insurance institution for more information in this regard.
European Health Insurance Card Renewal
You will be able to renew your European Health Card prior to its expiration, if you wish to. Once again, the EHIC renewal process depends on your country of residence and the way they have regulated EHIC renewal.
I.e. in the UK, you will be able to renew your EHIC card online, if your details have not changed. The renewal is free, as well. On the other hand, in Finland the competent authorities will renew your card automatically, if you are still eligible to possess it.
How does an EHIC card look like?
An EHIC card is easily recognizable. All cards, no matter which country issued them, have the same front. The only difference is that the language differs, according to the issuing country. The front of the card is purple, and contains the following information:
- given name
- date of birth
- personal identification
- identification number of the institution
- identification number of the card
- and the expiry date of the card
However, the back of the card differs from one country to another.
In case of Card Loss
In case you lose your card, you will have to apply for a new one. In addition to giving the personal details, as you do when you apply for the first time for an EHIC card, you will also need to explain how you lost it.
Retrieving your card now is very easy due to the European Health Insurance Card app, which enables you to keep your details safe.
The app is available in both, Android and iOS operating systems. The app is a guide on how to use the card and the covered treatments. It also explains to the cardholder what to do in case of card loss.
It is free to download and available in the following languages: German, English, Bulgarian, Spanish, Danish, Slovak, Slovenian, Estonian, Finnish, French, Greek, Dutch, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Swedish and Czech.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use EHIC instead of Travel Insurance?
The EHIC is not an alternative to Travel Insurance. You will still need to have travel insurance even if you have an EHIC. The EU health card does not provide the same level of coverage as travel insurance. It does not cover private healthcare, repatriation in case of death, lost or stolen luggage etc., which travel insurance covers.
How long does it take to get an EHIC card?
It takes 10 to 15 days to obtain an EHIC. The amount of days differs from one country to another.
How should I use the card?
If you need medical treatment while in one of the EEA countries or Switzerland, to which you are not a resident, you should go at a public hospital or clinic and present your card.
Can I use private healthcare with EHIC?
No, you cannot. The card can be used only in public healthcare system.
Can I use my card anywhere else aside of EEA countries and Switzerland?
You will be able to use your card in the following countries, aside of the EEA countries and Switzerland:
- North Macedonia
Keep in mind that despite the fact that the EEA countries and Switzerland can use their cards for medical treatment in these countries, if you are a national of any of the four, you are not eligible for an EHIC.
How much should I pay for a European Health Card?
The EU health insurance card is free. However, there are operators online, who claim they provide applicants with the card, for a certain amount of money. Do not fall for these websites, since you can directly apply yourself, without having to pay anything.
Should I apply for a new Card each time I go abroad?
No, you do not need to do so. Every country issues a card with a validity period. No matter how many times your travel throughout these 31 countries, you will be able to access public healthcare systems, as long as your card is valid.
How do I receive the card?
In most countries, you will get your EHIC by post. Still, in some countries you will have to show up at the competent authorities to withdraw it in person.